Before I started this module, I feel like I already knew much of the material that was being taught to us, that it was ‘common sense’, and I became irritated with the way some of the academics wrote. I thought that there was too much passion in the way that Abrams in particular handled his words, as I had thought previously that in order to become a published author, you needed to have a certain sense of detachment from your writings. I found, as we read more, that I actually did agree with a lot that he was saying; for example that the way our language works can be a hindrance to understanding concepts. I have thought this for a while myself, and now wherever I can, I am even more conscious of how I phrase things, to ensure that I am understood in the best clarity possible. Abrams reminds us that we humans are not in fact the centre of the universe, no matter how much we would like that to be true.
Wallace’s writing, I think, has had the most impact on me. His contagious curiosity in the way he thinks about things that aren’t often thought about was actually rather touching. His style was more like story-telling, which was comfortable and familiar to me as I spent most of my childhood reading books. After having studied him, I feel as though I am more aware of the little things around us: considering how life would be like if we didn’t have one specific thing is very interesting to me, and the way Wallace approached this concept like a science fiction novel was inspiring. I am not particularly talented at ‘academic style writing’, and I was glad to be reminded that I do not have to write in a way that is dry or boring, if I don’t want to.
The second session was the one most relevant to my course as a maker. Ingold’s writing on hylomorphism and the agency of materials is important to the way a maker must approach their making, taking into considerations the limitations of the material that they use. The idea is, of course, important, but the idea alone does not an object make. The next part of his text was more difficult for me to fully understand: the difference between an object and a thing. I understand where he’s coming from: everything that exists has an impact or acts on it’s surroundings, and is impacted, or acted, upon in return. This constitutes a ‘thing’, an object is completely within the maker’s control, but a thing can act on it’s own; it can rot, melt, or fray. Everything is not separate and individual, but finding where to draw the line at where one thing ends and another begins is a bit of a headache.
I enjoyed Hodder’s writing, as he describe humans’ relationships with things as a symbiotic relationship, each member of the relationship needing the other’s input to remain in use. A wall is necessary for humans to keep control, but a wall requires upkeep. The input from both sides of the relationship are what keeps the whole thing going. I struggled to find something I enjoyed to apply these concepts to, and writing my own essay was very difficult for me. In the end, I applied the concept of object agency and ‘thingness’ to the one ring, from Lord of the Rings. This concept was the hardest for me to understand, so it was a challenge to write an essay on it, but I think I succeeded. Writing about it in regards to something that I am interested in, and applying it to that helped me to understand it better. I think that in the future, if I am struggling with something, I should try and do a similar technique and link it to a scenario that I know well, so that it becomes easier for me.
The third session was about the process of making itself, using Tonkinwise’s ‘design away’ theory. This session made me aware of how much waste there is in making any one object, and has made me think a bit more on how to get as much as I can out of one piece of material. Even before, I hated wasting things, but now that I’ve had to think more about where the things I have come from, I’m even more aware that so much material goes to waste. This session also made me wonder what the point of making anything was for a while: the concept of forced obsolescence was alarming. I don’t want to make something only for the recipient to throw something they already had away, or for something to arrive later and have my object discarded, so I will have to think carefully about the quality of my creations.
The fourth and final session expanded upon human relationship with the world itself, using Klée’s tree model. This diagram helped me to understand where a lot of our inspiration comes from. Furthermore, an important aspect of this study is humility; we should remember that we are not superior to the earth in any way, and thinking this way can be harmful.
Studying these concepts, while not entirely original to me, has reminded me that we should not become arrogant as humans, and try to remember that we are not the only things in the universe.
The whole purpose of this module was to try and think of things as a not-human, or as if humans aren’t part of the equation. This is not possible in the slightest, since we are humans and a human thinking about not being human just reinforces the fact that we are human, but the act of doing so broadens one’s horizons and makes people think a little differently. In the words of Uncle Iroh, “It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it become rigid and stale.” Avatar: the Last Airbender (2005-2008)